Friday, August 29, 2008

Video made by Kalpna and Bisola for the Voices for Africa Conference, sent by Inbal Alon

As part of our best practices of education in Africa, we created an initiative to partner with a local school and implement a primary source history project. We collaborated with high school students from the Social Justice Academy (SJA) to interview recent African immigrants and gather their authentic perspectives on their immigration to America. The goal of this project was to teach the SJA students about the importance of primary sources, inform them about current African affairs, and show them how connected they are to seemingly distant events. Through this project, we also hoped to empower the students and their community members to develop their own critical authentic voices in history.
Seven SJA seniors volunteered to become youth journalists and take part this initiative. We collaborated with the students to shape the project around their desires to increase their knowledge about Africa and learn more about African issues by interacting with other peers of African descent. In order to help students achieve these goals, we created an after school program that meet once a week for two hours. During these weekly meetings, we trained the students on how to conduct quality interviews, helped them find recent African youth to interview, guided them trough researching the history and current issues of their interviewees, and worked together to draft interesting questions for the interviews. Before the project started the students admitted that they knew very little about Africa and that the information they did know was gained from the media (primarily television and movies). The following are some of the sample responses given by SJA students before the project:
“I know there’s genocide going on in Sudan…other than that I don’t know much except the Nile River…The media usually shows about killing and violence and they don’t present all the good things and resources of the country” – SJA male student “I know that in Africa a lot of people have HIV and AIDS and they suffer through poverty….[I got these views] from TV and the media. They just show hungry kids and the effects of kids born to parents with aids.” – SJA female student
“I know that Africa is a poor country without any stable government.” – SJA female student
“I recently watched the movie blood diamond and it just showed a lot of violence. How the Africans were killing other Africans and killing women and children…All the movies about Africa are really bad.” – SJA female student
After participating in this project and dialoguing with other recent African immigrant youth, the students gained a new, more accurate, perspective about Africa. The following are some sample responses given by SJA students after completing the project:
“I know a lot more about Africa than before I started interviewing them. Some of the things they told me I would have never know just by what I see on television or from what the media says about Africa.” – SJA male student
“I learned so much that I never knew before….I learned so much in just a 20-30 minute conversation!” - SJA female student
“it was wonderful learning about new countries. And learning about other cultures is definitely a good thing because it opens up your mind and keeps you from being ignorant.” – SJA male student
The students strongly believed that their fellow peers would benefit tremendously from participating in a similar project because it would enable them to shed their misconceptions and stereotypes and gain a truer, first-hand perspective about Africa. This project shows how the simple act of talking to someone, especially of a different background, can have a significant, positive impact on the lives of youth. The following, is a closing remark from one of the male SJA students:
“[The project] doesn’t have to be just people from Africa, it could be people from anywhere. [After talking with one another] we would be more interested in each other than we are now. We would feel much closer to each other and we wouldn’t think that I’m Haitian or he’s Jamaican that I’m black and he’s not. We would just think that we’re one people and that’s it.”

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